Archive for March 20th, 2008


Thank God it’s Friday.
Thank God it’s Good Friday. Rarely do a country of Christians need a Good Friday like today. Good Friday simplifies things. It is black and white. It is life or death. For a people who are neither here nor there, following their leaders who are neither here nor there, morally and otherwise, that is, a Good Friday can set things in perspective. Hopefully, they are not in a beach somewhere having a vacation, or in Baguio
looking for cooler weather and colored Easter eggs.
To me, the heart of Christianity is the life and death of Jesus Christ. To me, it begins with the mission that His Father sent him to earth for, a salvific mission where love and sacrifice are the medium and the message at the same time. It moves to a crucial point with His choice of suffering and death instead of using His power and authority over life. It then climaxes in glory with a self-powered resurrection, a victory of life over death, a glimpse of the forever that is also given as a human birthright.
To me, that is. I hesitate to say that my understanding is also the official dogma of the Church. When it comes to dogma, only Church hierarchy has the final say. And by the way, Church hierarchy does not include the laity no matter how much the Church says that the laity is part and parcel of the Church (though, by numbers, the laity IS the Church). For as long as there is no formal authority by the laity over the most central dimension of the Church, its spirituality, its faith and its dogma, there is a hollow, almost propaganda-like ring about the laity being as important as the Church. But, thank goodness, early on in life, young children are taught by the Church that they have a conscience, and that conscience can guide them to discern between good and evil, between right and wrong, between truth and lie. It is the same conscience that leads the very young to repentance and the acceptance of penance. Thank goodness for conscience, thank God for the direct line that He has granted to all His children.
If not for conscience, if not for this direct line, no Catholic in the Philippines will have a clear reception and distinction of good and evil, of right and wrong, of truth and lie if he or she will depend on the pronouncements of bishops. A Catholic MUST chose one bishop, hope that this bishop will not flip flop on his pronouncements, and then not listen to other bishops. Otherwise, confusion will reign as Philippine bishops do not have the habit of clearly saying the same thing.
Good Friday, then, is for you and me to interpret it, to see through the life of Jesus before the cross, to hear Him state what His mission from the Father was, to discern from the Scriptures how he led His life, the love of others especially the poor, the simplicity, the humility, the power of miracles and healing, the twitting of the Scribes and Pharisees and His occasional but very sharp rebukes of their hypocrisy and attachment to position and ritual. In the end, Jesus was proven right. The hierarchy of His Church then provided the thirty pieces of silver to Judas and arranged a mob to pressure Pontius Pilate to approve His crucifixion.
I move on to my next reflection on Good Friday. It is on the obedience of Jesus to the will of His Father. In the eye of His storm and great physical pain, Jesus wavered twice, in His agony in the garden and as He was in His last moments on the cross. But He obeyed a will greater than His. When Jesus organized the structure of what He would leave behind on earth, what we now call our Church, He designated His disciples to ensure sustainability. But by the time He set up the human hierarchy of the structure, He already had established the law, His law that did not change older laws but transcended them. He had firmly established the priority of love of God and love of neighbor, of His preferential option for the poor and His reminder for all who follow His footsteps that what they do to the poor, they do to Him. Before the human hierarchy, Jesus established the divine or spiritual priority.
Again, this is my personal understanding. The challenge with all the teachings from Scripture is that many have argued heatedly about their interpretation. Too often, Biblical verses have been used to defend one’s position, not to lovingly teach. The televised shows of several religious leaders do not ooze with the love of Christ although their words may say so. Too often, the verses are used like arrows to wound an opposite view or a rival pastor.
In the end, I fall back on my conscience, my direct line to God. Inside this womb of intimacy and communication, I feel great security and conviction. After all, God is truly personal and nothing must come between us and Him, not the devil, not even pastoral leaders unless they are consistent in reflecting His love and wisdom.
There are many, though, who do need the formal hierarchy to find their way to the truth. There are many moments in one’s life when the light seems dimmer, when God’s prompting seems too faint. On judgment day, however, we are taught that it is a one-on-one affair, a one-on-one accounting where we cannot point to the bishops as alibi for the wrong we have committed. That truism should be a powerful guide – bishops cannot be blamed for the wrong we do. They cannot save us, they cannot damn us.
Each of us, for the purpose which our Creator assigned to us, will have to account and show a profit. Profit is fidelity to the teachings, surrender to God’s will, and love of neighbor as an expression of love of God. Profit is bringing glad tidings to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and glory always to the Lord. Loss, on the other hand, is diverting oneself from one’s divinely assigned purpose, rebelling or perverting the will and laws of the Lord.
The sheep will account for being good members of the flock. The shepherds will account for protecting their flock and not leading them astray. The sheep will not be judged as shepherds, and shepherds will not be judged as sheep. The Shepherd knelt to wash the feet of the sheep, but, in His humility, the Shepherd did not ask the sheep to kneel and wash His feet. Thank God for Good Friday. Thank God for conscience. Thank God for our direct line to Him.
GLIMPSES By: Jose Ma. Montelibano

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